NIGHTMARE (1981) Reviews and overview

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Nightmares in a Damaged Brain 1 poster

‘The dream you can’t escape alive!’

Nightmare is a 1981 American slasher horror film written and directed by Italian filmmaker Romano Scavolini (Spirits of Death). It has also been released as Nightmare in a Damaged BrainNightmares in a Damaged Brain and Blood Splash. Produced by Bill Milling (as William Milling) and John L. Watkins.

The Goldmine Productions movie stars Baird Stafford, Sharon Smith, C.J. Cooke, Mik Cribben (Beware: Children at Play) and Kathleen Ferguson.


Nightmare gained instant notoriety among horror fans when it was banned in the UK as a so-called video nasty. Incredibly, its British distributor David Hamilton Grant was sentenced to six months in prison for refusing to edit violent footage from his World of Video 2000 VHS release (!).

Nightmare also garnered controversy for claiming in its press material that Tom Savini (Dawn of the Dead; Friday the 13th; The Prowler) had provided the film’s special effects, which he vehemently denied.


In fact, as the above production image shows, it seems that Savini supervised the work of Ed French (Necropolis; Breeders; Blood Rage) during the infamous beheading scene.

The production supervisor was Simon Nuchtern, who filmed the fake murder footage at the climax of Snuff and director of Silent Madness (1983).


Having escaped from a mental institution, George Tatum (Baird Stafford) visits Times Square and is further unhinged by the sleaze on display. He then journeys back down to his home in Florida.

Along the way, he has recurring nightmares of a violent incident from his childhood, which forces him to kill again. George’s frustration amidst the sleazy streets of New York is also shown to be a cause of his mental state.

George’s ex-wife, Susan Temper (Sharon Smith), young son C.J. (C.J. Cooke), and the family babysitter begin to receive “hang-up” calls, which none of them realises is George making sure his family is home.


The closer George gets to his destination, the more gruesome his murders become and the memories of his first childhood murder intensify…




Nightmare is a schizophrenic puzzle of a movie. It’s director, Scavolini, shows he is able to use editing to heighten the sense of tension and horror one minute. The next, it seems he was wearing a blindfold whilst he was snipping away! He also lifts many elements from Halloween … But, like Ulli Lommel’s Bogeyman (1980), Scavolini fashions something different.” Hysteria Lives!

“Instead of emphasizing pretty teenagers and slick production numbers, Scavolini instead emphasized the sordid “reality” of the film’s rather trashy cast of characters.  There’s not a likable character to be found anywhere within this film nor is there a single scene that doesn’t feel as if it’s been drenched in sleaze. An ominous atmosphere of impending, relentless doom hangs over every second of the film.” Horror Critic

nightmares in a Damaged Brain

“The gore scenes are mostly unconvincing and the sex couldn’t be more unsavory (including a pivotal kinky flashback no viewer has ever forgotten), but that hardly matters when the end product still feels so grimy and unhealthy from the opening frames … but at least there’s a hefty vein of unintentional comedy running through it as well thanks to Italian-born director Romano Scavolini’s odd view of American culture.” Mondo Digital




Choice dialogue:

“Sorry! You lose a dangerous psychotic patient from a secret experimental drug programme and all you can say is sorry?”


Blu-ray releases:

On 23rd November 2015, 88 Films released the film in the UK uncut on Blu-ray with the following confirmed extras:
Terror in Times Square – A Guide to Nightmare’s Grindhouse Kingdom
Audio Commentary with The Hysteria Continues
Audio Commentary by Bill Paul
Interview with Tom Ward, CEO of 21st Century Films
TV Spots


Buy 88 Films Blu-ray:

In July 2018, a new Blu-ray release from Code Red was distributed by Kino Lorber.

Audio Commentary with Make-up Artist Cleve Hall and Star Baird Stafford, Moderated by Lee Christian and David DeCoteau
“Making of a Nightmare” Interview with Baird Stafford, Cleve Hall, and Ex-Distributor Tom Ward
“New York Nightmare” Interview with New York Special Effects Make-up Artist Edward French
Interview with Director Romano Scavolini
Interview with Producer Bill Milling
Interview with star Mik Cribben
Two alternate Nightmare Trailers


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Cast and characters:

Baird Stafford … George Tatum
Sharon Smith … Susan Temper
C.J. Cooke … C.J. Temper
Mik Cribben … Bob Rosen
Danny Ronan … Kathy the Babysitter
John L. Watkins … Man with Cigar (as John Watkins)
Bill Milling … Paul Williamson (as William Milling)
Scott Praetorius … Young George
William Kirksey … George’s Father (as William S. Kirksey)
Christina Keefe … George’s Father Lover
Tammy Patterson … Tammy Temper
Kim Patterson … Kim Temper
Kathleen Ferguson … Barbara
William Paul … Steve
Tommy Bouvier … Joe
Candese Marchese … Candy, the Jogger (as Candy Marchese)
Geoffrey Marchese … Tony Walker
Michael Sweney … Burt Daniels
George Kruger … Chief Cotter
Ray Baker … Real Estate Agent
Lonnie Griffis … Gatsby’s Singer
Tara Alexander … Woman in Booth
Miranda Stevens … Show World Dancer (as Danielle Galiana)
Carl Clifford … Hospital Attendant
David Massar … Hospital Attendant
Mary Lee Parise … Police Officer
Randy Arieux … Police Officer
Craig Cain … Police Officer
Mark Davis … Police Officer
Ken Thomas … Police Officer
Robert Tenvooren … Police Officer
Susan Webb … Police Officer
Frank Rothery … Police Officer
Scott Trotter … Police Officer

Filming locations:

480 W Cocoa Beach Causeway, Cocoa Beach, Florida (Gatsby’s restaurant and lounge)
Cape Canaveral, Florida (beach scenes)
Cocoa Beach, Florida (bar scene)
Merritt Island, Florida (interior)
Orlando International Airport – 1 Airport Boulevard, Orlando, Florida (airport)
Times Square, 42nd Street, Manhattan, New York City, New York

Technical details:

97 minutes
Aspect ratio: 1.85: 1
Audio: Mono

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